How do drugs affect the brain?

A psychoactive drug is a chemical substance which, when consumed, can affect the brain and nervous system, resulting in an altered mental state. The potent effects of psychoactive drugs have led some to be used as prescription medicines, while others have become some of the most widely prohibited illicit substances in the world. So what are the effects of drugs on the brain? What are the different types of psychoactive drug, and how do these various chemicals affect behaviour, consciousness, mood, perception, and the functioning of the brain?

Hallucinogens alter perception and cause hallucinations

Hallucinogenic substances interact with receptor molecules in the brain, including acetylcholine, glutamate, and serotonin receptors, with a range of effects from perceptual changes to hallucinatory experiences.

Psychedelics trigger psychedelic experiences

Psychedelic experiences involve a feeling of altered or expanded consciousness, and may involve hallucinations.

Dissociatives cause feelings of detachment from reality

Dissociatives such as ketamine distort perceptions and cause a sense of dissociation from the self.

Depressants slow brain and nervous system function

Depressant drugs inhibit signals in the brain and nervous system, reducing neuronal messages and slowing the brain's activity down.

Opioids are painkillers

Opioids activate opioid receptors in the brain, which reduces the neuronal signals for pain.

Sedative-hypnotic drugs relieve anxiety and promote sleep

Hypnotics and sedatives have calming effects, reducing irritability and agitation and encouraging rest.

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system

Alcoholic beverages are psychoactive due to the effects of ethanol on the brain and nervous system.

Cannabis causes euphoria and alters perception

One of the most popular recreational drugs, cannabis, affects the brain via cannabinoid compounds.

Stimulants elevate alertness and mood

Stimulant drugs affect the brain's internal communication and transmission processes, often targeting the dopamine reward pathway to cause feelings of euphoria.

Cocaine causes feelings of happiness and agitation

Cocaine allows dopamine to build up in the synaptic spaces between neurons, affecting the brain's reward pathway.

Amphetamines affect mood and cognition

Emotional and cognitive effects occur when amphetamines stimulate the central nervous system.
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This page was last edited on Thursday, 12 Mar 2020 at 08:34 UTC